Tour de France: Stage 1-9 previewsFri 3 Jul 2015
Prepare yourself for the next nine days of racing at Le Tour de France by reading our stage previews with comments from sport director Matt White.
Stage 1: Utrecht - 13.8km individual time trial
The 2015 Tour de France starts with an opening individual time trial.
At 13.8km, it’s an interesting distance – longer than a traditional prologue and shorter than a typical time trial stage. It’s the only race against the clock for the three-week Tour.
Matt White: “The course is pan flat and they have removed a lot of the road furniture you usually see in Holland which takes away some of the more severe technical elements. It’s not a stage where we will take excessive risks, but the boys will get out there, open up the legs and give it a go.”
Stage 2: Utrecht to Zelande (166km)
The second stage from Utrecht to Zelande is about as flat as a racing profile can get. It features one sprint point at the 80.5km mark but the first king of the mountains jersey will not be decided for another day.
On paper it looks simple, but we all know what Holland can throw at us…
Matt White: “This stage has the potential to be a hugely chaotic and stressful first road stage. Depending on what gets thrown at us – wind, rain, etc – don’t be surprised to see some serious echelons forming. A priority for us is to stay safe and look after each other.”
Stage 3: Anvers to Huy (159.5km)
After a flat start, day three then hits the Ardennes region and the stage spices up with three category four climbs and a final category three to the finish. The final three climbs were those featured in the final of the 2015 La Fleche Wallone, which was won by Alejandro Valverde with ORICA-GreenEDGE’s Michael Albasini in third.
Matt White: “La Fleche Wallone gave us a preview to this finish earlier in the year. We expect it to be a fast start and then for similar teams as in April to feature at the front. We saw then that the additional climb ahead of the Mur de Huy finish has the potential to break it up a little bit more, but also that it is not of the level to take the puncheurs out of contention.”
Stage 4: Seraing to Cambrai (223.5km)
To top off an already stressful opening to the 2015 Tour de France cue… cobbles!
Stage four is the longest stage of the Tour by over 20km and brings with it seven sectors of pave. In total, the peloton will negotiate 13.3km of pave, the penultimate sector at the 200km mark is the longest at 3,700m.
Matt White: “We saw what pave did to last year’s Tour in the first week. The Tour isn’t full of Classics riders, for many it will be about minimizing losses and for others, like we saw Vincenzo Nibali last year, it will be an opportunity. For us, it is largely about getting through unscathed. We don’t have our cobbled specialists here, and the risk is too great.”
Stage 5: Arras to Amiens (189.5km)
One of the few flat stages, stage five looks to be one for the pure sprinters although with little shelter, wind may also play a part. As will the condition riders following a stressful few days on the road.
Matt White: “There is not a huge amount of opportunity for the pure sprinters at this year’s Tour, so I expect their teams to assume a pretty big role in controlling how stage five plays out. Flat bunch sprints are not what we consider our targets, our strengths lie in other areas.”
Stage 6: Abbeville to Le Havre (191.5km)
Stage six follows the line of the ocean for the most part of the 191km journey from Abbeville to Le Havre.
The parcours offers three small category four climbs but they are not expected to break up proceedings. Of more significance is the short rise to the finish line that many are predicting will rule out the pure sprinters.
Matt White: “It’s not a surprise to anyone that this is a stage that suits our characteristics on paper. But it does run along the water for much of the way so conditions have the potential to make it another chaotic day in the office. We would really like to see this stage arrive in a reduced group sprint to the finish.”
Stage 7: Livarot to Fougeres (190.5km)
What you see is what you get with stage seven - a flat stage that, by almost all reasoning, should end in a bunch sprint.
The sprinters have too few opportunities to let this one slide, and despite a few roundabouts in the final kilometres, it’s a fairly straight forward stage.
Matt White: “We are predicting a pretty stock standard sprinters day here. A break will form, but without any obstacles – hills or likely wind etc. – they will be closely watched by teams with the likes of Mark Cavendish and Andre Griepel. As we have said in the past, these types of finishes are not really where we see our best opportunities.”
Stage 8: Rennes to Mur de Bretagne (181.5km)
Stage 8 is characterised by the category three climb to finish, with many predicting the stage will decided in this final two kilometres.
Additional considerations include the undulating stage, often on exposed roads, prior to the final climb and the pending team time trial on the following day that will see some teams or riders preferring to conserve.
Matt White: “Many, especially the Australian public, will remember this finale from back in 2011 when Cadel Evans beat Alberto Contador. The lead in is a little different but the final 2km climb is the same. It will break it up, but how much, time will tell.”
Stage 9: Vannes to Plumelec - TTT (28km)
Not your typical team time trial, stage nine will be one to watch.
Not only is the parcours tough, with little to no flat sections and a solid climb to the finish, it’s also the first team time trial after eight days racing. How teams will arrive at the start of this stage can also have a big impact on who can feature.
Matt White: “No one has experienced a team time trial fatigued. I have never seen a team time trial so late in a Grand Tour in the modern era of cycling, which means people need to survive the first eight days – I am sure there will be teams start with riders short or with other riders banged up from crashes.
“It will take some luck and some good planning, but we expect to be very competitive along with the other usual suspects.”